Somewhat regularly, I hear practitioners espouse the idea that storytelling must be a required skill for businesspeople. Among the champions of this notion are Lori Silverman, Karen Dietz, and Gary Vaynerchuk.
Now add Ron Weisinger, principal of development for LINKS Consulting, to the chorus. In an article entitled Storytelling: The New HR Competency, Weisinger writes:
I’ve learned to use storytelling as a … powerful and persuasive tool that continually serves me as an HR business partner and leadership coach. Storytelling has become part of my toolbox and is every bit as effective and important a competency as some of the more traditional ones that define an effective HR professional.
Weisinger goes on to tell two stories about stories — illustrating how he has used storytelling to:
- Explain his presence as an HR director at a design meeting (In many companies, HR is not considered integral to business profitability).
- Catalyze an organizational-change program.
I am inclined to quibble that stories Weisinger cites are not so much stories as questions that incite narrative thinking in their audiences. He nevertheless succeeds in illustrating the value of storytelling in HR, and indeed, in business.
I also love this point he makes:
How many times has a leader complained about the lack of progress with an organizational change initiative or the effectiveness of a desired “cultural transformation”? Those frustrations are often rooted in two factors. First is the mistaken notion that organizations change and/or cultures transform. They don’t. People do. So when a leader is frustrated with the pace or quality of organizational change what s/he is really saying is that people aren’t behaving in the intended way.
That’s one of the points I attempted to make in my doctoral dissertation — that organizational change is rooted in individual change; thus, individuals not only need change skills but need the ability to tell stories that illustrate their change skills.
[Thanks to Terrence Gargiulo for making me aware of this article.]